Vancouver Island University to go bottled water-free

September 1, 2011 - 2:56am

Vancouver Island University Students’ Union (VIUSU) has joined forces with VIU’s Administration and the university’s labour groups to become the first bottled water-free university in BC. With the support of the university, VIUSU will mount a campaign called “Ban the Bottle” that will see VIU’s Nanaimo campus become bottled water-free by June 2012.

The students’ union approached VIU’s administration with a proposal of being the first bottled water-free University in BC and was met with support, says Katie Marocchi, VIU Students’ Union Chairperson.

“It is time to put the environment first, “says Marocchi. “VIUSU is pleased that both the administration and labour groups at VIU support our recommendation to eliminate bottled water on the Nanaimo campus. If VIU is striving to become leaders in sustainability then this is one small way to demonstrate that commitment.”

In an email to VIUSU last December, Dan McDonald, President of the Vancouver Island University Faculty Association (VIUFA), confirmed that the VIUFA executive unanimously passed a motion in late October endorsing the ban the bottle campaign.

In a similar letter to VIUSU, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) President Tara Mitchell indicated that CUPE had also passed a motion to support VIUSU’s efforts to reduce and/or eliminate bottled water on campus.

“We know there are logistics that have to be worked out such as allowing on-campus vendors to adjust their product lines and developing policy around the use of bottled water in emergency situations,” says Marocchi. “This is why we are working towards a June 2012 date.”

The University’s administration is in full support of the students’ efforts. “We are proud of our students and pleased to support this initiative,” says Toni O’Keeffe, Executive Director of Communication and Public Relations at VIU.

“As an institution of higher learning we have a social responsibility to educate the population regarding sustainability issues. VIU’s Nanaimo campus has already reduced bottled water use by about 75 per cent since 2007 and we expect this reduction to continue.”

VIU has already begun to examine the use of water coolers and is assessing the need for filling stations.

VIU is not the first in Canada to take such an approach. In March 2010 Ryerson University became the first university in Ontario to make a commitment to eliminate the sale of bottled water on campus. Across Canada, municipalities, school boards, colleges, universities and restaurants are all looking at the impact bottled water is having on the environment and taking action to reduce bottled water consumption.

VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson says the university will engage in a joint campaign with students that educates employees and students on the impact plastic water bottles have on the environment.

“VIU must consider environmental sustainability when we are looking at our bottom line,” says Nilson. “Our hope is that we will eliminate bottled water on the Nanaimo Campus by June 2012. This approach will allow our vendors and third-party users of our campuses to adapt to customer/member demands over time.”

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